When I first heard of Gavin Wheeldon, it was through his YouTube video documenting his time in Vietnam’s quarantine facility just outside of Hanoi, in Son Tay. His honesty & respect towards Vietnam combined with willingness to show those in doubt just how well he was treated during his 14 days there struck me as admirable.
He then created an online form for those that wanted to thank Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Dinh Ban for his efforts during a trying time, again proving his respect and gratitude.
However, as Gavin shared the creative process regarding his new video, I had doubts. Addressing animal cruelty can often lead to sweeping generalisations and cultural disrespect, thus I eagerly anticipated the release of the video.
What I instead watched today (released on his YouTube channel here) assessed the issue of dog cruelty in Hanoi, doing so in a way that respects traditions and culture whilst presenting a balanced overview of the issue at play.
Gavin makes it clear from the beginning of the video that what he is not addressing is the morality behind dog meat, as he understands the cultural importance of such a practice whilst also recognising the hypocrisy in the westernised domestication of animals being used as an argument: setting moral hierarchies based on culture is bound to wind up in ignorance of tradition as well as the assumption of superiority.
Instead, Gavin chooses to focus on the mistreatment of dogs, though several times throughout his video he makes it clear that the majority of Vietnamese people alike both respect, love and treat dogs well but also stresses that the minority who mistreat animals must be addressed rather than ignored.
Drawing from personal experiences, he carries out the necessary research to ensure that the assertions throughout the video are not only well evidenced but balanced also. Though, the video seems less encapsulated by an agenda and instead a medium in which awareness can be raised regarding the issue.
Governmental actions are being taken against the dog meat trade in itself, in Hanoi the government is in the process of banning the dog meat trade, and as pointed out during the video, perhaps this will change some perceptions, leading to a better treatment of dogs by the few who choose to abuse & harm animals.
I have chosen not to go too in depth about the content of the video, as I believe that those reading this article should watch the video, and that typing up the video’s contents would detract from the important work and effort carried out to make such a video. To quote Gavin, “the problem is perception, and maybe nothing can change until perception changes”.
The video can be viewed here